Orchestra Underground: Monk’s Sphere Composer Spotlight – Loren Loiacono

Loren Loiacono, a young composer of extraordinary talent, synthesizes her childhood experience playing with Barbie’s Dream House and her later discovery of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe in the NYC premiere of Stalks, Hounds at Orchestra Underground: Monk’s Sphere on November 21 at Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall. Loren was kind enough to answer a few questions about the creative process behind Stalks, Hounds.
Composer Loren Loiacono
American Composers Orchestra: What was the inspiration for your composition?  Can you tell us about your creative process for this piece?

Loren Loiacono: As goofy as it may sound, the inspiration for Stalks, Hounds was a computer game I played as a kid, where whenever you clicked on various things, it would be accompanied by this harp-flourish sound effect.  Years later, as a teenager, I heard Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe for the first time, and was stunned to realize that the harp “sound effect” was, verbatim, taken from a gesture in that piece.  It struck me as odd how that particular phrase had been completely isolated from its original musical context, and had been turned into something completely, for lack of a better word, inane.  (I think I’m probably not alone in this experience – there is plenty of music that I heard as part of cartoons or games re-contextualized as used for a different purpose.)  In particular, I wanted to explore the idea of that gesture, not as an organic part of its original musical whole, but as a stock sound, that could be summoned with a click.

ACO: Are any of the musical gestures you decontextualize in this piece borrowed from anything a listener could recognize?

LL: The most obvious gesture is the Daphnis quote. The opening of the piece very closely replicates the experience I had of that flourish accompanying every computer click (including, if one were to click too quickly, the gesture becoming truncated).  Other than that, the materials I used were all very simple, even cliche (descending scales, circle of fifth harmonic progressions, etc.), but used in a way in which things are slightly askew.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the performance of your piece at Carnegie Hall by the American Composers Orchestra?

LL: Everything! Hearing an orchestra play your music is always an exhilarating experience to begin with, but this time is particularly exciting.  What I’m most excited about, though, is to hear how ACO is going to interpret the piece.  The piece has only been played by one orchestra (it was premiered by the Yale Philharmonia in 2011), and so for the last couple of years, the way I think about the piece has been completely tied up with how they played it.  This piece is particularly close to my heart, as well, so hearing another orchestra play the piece, and particularly one as well-attuned to the nuances of contemporary music as ACO, will be like discovering a whole new side of Stalks, Hounds.

ACO: What should the audience listen for during your piece?

LL: I’d say the best things to listen for are how each of the gestures introduced is derailed: the harp flourishes that keep getting overtaken by strings and percussion, the descending scales that get stuck on the way down, and, most notably, the piano/vibraphone groove that can’t quite seem to find its footing.

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